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Racial Discrimination in the English Professional Football League

7 June 2000

Evidence that racial discrimination exists in the English professional football league is published this week in the June edition of the Journal of Political Economy.

The author, Dr. Stefan Szymanski, based at the Management School, Imperial College, has devised a statistical market test(1) which identifies racial discrimination in salary setting in the English football league between 1978-1993(2). The test suggests that a black player receives a lower return on his talents compared with a white player of equal ability.

In a competitive market for the services of players, the total wage bill of the club will reflect the position a club achieves in the football league. Dr. Szymanskis test shows that in clubs fielding an above average number of black players in their team, the performance of the club is higher than the wage bill suggests. Conversely, clubs with a lower than average number of black players, have a lower league position than expected from the wage bill.

Discrimination exists if clubs fielding an above average number of black players systematically outperforms clubs fielding a lower than average number of black players. The market test used here, finds that this discrimination exists.

Football teams discriminating in this way are taxed by restricting themselves to a subset of the players market. For a club fielding no black players, this tax is estimated to be 5% of the wage bill(3).

Dr. Szymanski comments: "In my paper, I argue that discriminators must pay a price because they reject a subset of playing talent. This talent can then be hired cheaply by non-discriminators, who only see the talent - the theory is consistent with the facts."

For further information please contact:

Dr. Stefan Szymanski(4)

Imperial College Press Office Contact:

Taslima Khan

Notes to editors:

Paper reference: A Market Test for Discrimination in the English Professional Soccer Leagues, volume 108, no 3, pp 590-603.

1. This new market test for discrimination is preferable to the usual earnings function approach. Its main advantage is that once the wages and team (or firm) productivity is known, no other data is required.

2. Data on black players appearing for the 39 league clubs in the sample (from a population of 92) was constructed by a painstaking analysis of player records for the period 1974 to 1993. In 1974 there were only 4 black players appearing a total of 77 times for the sample clubs while by 1993 there were 98 players appearing 2033 times. Given an average squad size of around thirty players, by 1993 about 8% of all players were black. The distribution of appearances indicates marked differences between individual clubs. The lowest number of appearances (i.e. matches played by black players) for any club in data over the sample period is two. Two clubs in the sample had less than 10 appearances by black players, while four had less than 100. Four clubs registered more than 1000 appearances by black players.

3. For a top club in 1993 with a total wage bill of approximately £5 million, this tax penalty is approximately £250,000.

4. Dr. Szymanski has previously authored ten articles related to football. His book, Winners and Losers - The Business Strategy of Football, co-authored with Tim Kupyers, attained ninth position in the 1999 Sunday Times best selling sports books list.